Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 171

Hybrid View

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
    Posts
    1,973

    Default Treatment Free: It's a path, not a solution

    I have been treatment free for about 15 months now. I mean that in the "truest" sense - no manipulations or additions of any kind for the purpose of combating mites. The bees have struggled, and one could say that the treatment free approach I'm using is "not working" very well. So I have been considering my alternatives. And I find myself wondering if it's really fair to ask treatment free to "work". Isn't it really just choosing a different way to approach beekeeping - one with a certain set of challenges that must be overcome? One could say that it's "living with mites", but then again, that is what everyone does. I feel like it's often just about living with mites, and not fighting them directly.

    I quit treating last April, and entered last winter with 11 hives. Came out with 8. Lost two or three through the spring and early summer and have built back up through cut-outs and swarms to 18 at this point. I have just set up nucs for the year. 10 of my number are those nucs.

    Over the last few years I have done a lot of study; reading everything I could find on ways of dealing with varroa, working with the bees - and in the end, I feel that for me personally, it just make the most sense not to interfere with the mite.

    At the end of the day, I've come to believe that keeping bees without treatments (for the most part) really just amounts to managing bees with mites. Sure, you can graft from your best and work toward a more resistant bee, but with most of us living in areas where there are plenty of other, treated bees around, your progress could be slow.

    Many people who are treatment free talk about making increase from "catching swarms" and "feral survivors", but I believe that most of those bees are just swarms from other people's treated bees, so all that collecting just amounts to replacing lost bees with new bees. The only difference really is that you worked for them, rather than paid for them, and in many cases, you can at least count the fact that if they came early enough in the season, the queen probably wintered at least once in your locality.

    There are so many challenges that face bees (pesticides, pests, disease, weather) and beekeepers (economics, pests, disease, weather, insanity) that the death or poor performance of a colony could be the result of any combination of things. Mites are one, albeit a major one.

    If you look at treatment free in the broadest sense; across all the people who take that approach, it really isn't about some genetic secret. It isn't about small cell. It isn't about not feeding sugar syrup, pollen sub or using three deeps or all mediums. There really isn't "a solution" in terms of some remedy that will rid the bees of mites.

    It's about not treating.

    So from what I can see, it really boils down to not fighting mites, and then managing day-to-day, month-to-month around the results. It's about deciding that you don't want to artificially combat mites and then replacing the work of doing so with other work.

    Isn't it?

    Adam

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Walker, Alabama, USA
    Posts
    896

    Default Re: Treatment Free: It's a path, not a solution

    I really wish you posted this in some other forum so I could say what I think on the subject, but I believe in following the rules so I'm keeping my opinions to myself.

    Rusty
    Rusty Hills Farm -- home of AQHA A Rusty Zipper & Rusty's Bees ( LC and T)

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Portland, Oregon
    Posts
    965

    Default Re: Treatment Free: It's a path, not a solution

    I have some colonies that have commercial queens, and some that have queens that came from colonies that were cutouts and swarms.

    Of the later, have two lines that I know are from bees that had bee had survived on their own through at least one winter :
    One was a cutout from the wall of an abandoned house near my home, and the space had been occupied by bees for several years...observed to be occupied before swarm season several years running.

    The other was secondary swarm from a bee tree. I haven't had that one through a winter yet.

    The first line, though, has survived three winters...end of next spring will mark three full years with it.

    They consistently grown quicker in spring and been more vigorous than the lines that have come form commercially raised queens.
    in fact, to the degree I'm able to, I intend not to buy commercial queens any longer (unless i don't do well finding more such bees for the sake of genetic diversity).

    I've not treated except one time the second year when I did a sugar shake because I'd seen a mite...nad figured it couldn't hurt.

    I understand that most untreated "survivor" hives that perish due to mites or disease do so during the first three years, and that most that survive that long do well...so the jury's out til next spring, in that regard.

    I jave noticed a marked difference in the performance of the "wild" line, though.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Bertie County,NC
    Posts
    870

    Default Re: Treatment Free: It's a path, not a solution

    I am operating treatment free as well, and I pretty much agree with your post completely.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Laurel Hill, Fl
    Posts
    434

    Default Re: Treatment Free: It's a path, not a solution

    I guess I don't understand, I fight the mites, SHB, and anything else with anything and everything except pesticides. Sounds like your definition is doing NOTHING.
    I won’t stand by and allows bees to die without a fight. I couldn’t be a bee keeper if my only goal was to raise enough bees to replace the ones that died.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
    Posts
    1,973

    Default Re: Treatment Free: It's a path, not a solution

    Quote Originally Posted by Robbin View Post
    I guess I don't understand... Sounds like your definition is doing NOTHING.
    No no, you do tons. Just nothing that amounts to removing or killing mites directly. You may do foundationless, or small cell, or selective breeding, or 3 deeps, or buying treatment free bees, or working with AHB, or make a nuc-based operation that can help you recover from loss, or whatever. You manage around the mite problem until you find a balance that works.

    My suggestion is that "Treatment Free" just means that you don't treat. From there, it just means finding a way to keep bees without treating. But there are not a ton of "answers" that really work on a broad scale. From what I can see, there is no solution that one can go to, follow and get repeated or consistent success with.

    In contrast, if you use say MAQS or Oxalic acid, your going to see mite loads get hammered with a pretty consistent regularity, whether you do it in Nova Scotia, or Texas, or New Zealand. Therefore, one could suggest that are a "viable solution" to keeping mites at manageable levels, and that means that the use of organic acids can be regarded as a solution to dealing with mites.

    I haven't been able to see the same consistency in any non-treatment approach. For every person that says something works, there is another that says it doesn't. So the treatment-free realm hasn't really got any broadly applicable solutions, but really only shares the choice to not treat.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Fort Walton Beach, Florida
    Posts
    1,256

    Default Re: Treatment Free: It's a path, not a solution

    Quote Originally Posted by Robbin View Post
    I guess I don't understand, I fight the mites, SHB, and anything else with anything and everything except pesticides. Sounds like your definition is doing NOTHING.
    I won’t stand by and allows bees to die without a fight. I couldn’t be a bee keeper if my only goal was to raise enough bees to replace the ones that died.
    Well, in a way, that's the goal of all beekeepers. After all, the bees you have now are not the bees you had this spring. Those bees are all dead, except for the queen. I don't say this to be argumentative, but to make the point that bees are different from other animals that we keep and feel responsible for.

    One thing to think about is whether the things we do to combat mites and beetles and moths are good for the bees in the long run. Are we saving them, or just condemning them to a protracted and sickly end? The rate of colony loss does not seem to be improving among commercial beekeepers, at least that's the impression I get from surveys like the BeeInformed surveys, and estimates from bee scientists at Beltsville. To me, this is an indication that the approach of treating for these pests is not a war that can be won.

    I'm no purist. I have SHB traps in my hives, though they don't seem to catch many beetles. I think a better approach is to have strong hives, and if a hive is weak, as in a newly installed split, I match the space to the size of the colony, so the bees have a chance of handling any infestation. I have seen a couple of beetles, but they haven't been a problem.

    As far as non-pesticide approaches to controlling mites, the only one that seems to make much sense to me is the use of brood breaks. This is a perfectly natural way to control mites, and is practiced by bees in the wild, in the form of swarming. Things like powdered sugar don't seem to work very well, and things like formic acid, oxalic acid, and thymol all have negative effects on hive health.

    There are approaches that can help jumpstart a beekeeper on the way to successful non-treatment. Locally adapted bees are a start. I got a local nuc this spring to start my beekeeping, and it's done very well. It's made a fair amount of honey already, and I've taken 2 successful splits from it. And there are breeders who have resistant lines of bees. My second split got a BeeWeaver queen, and she's going gangbusters so far. This has been a cheap education for me, and a whole lot of fun. Of course, the hive may decline in the fall; in fact I would be surprised if it did not, but I've sure learned a lot from having it.

    I got a package of semi treatment-free bees from Wolf Creek, but that one hasn't done as well, and I'm currently trying to cure it of a laying worker problem with frames of brood from my boomer.

    Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that being treatment free doesn't mean doing nothing. It means acquiring bees that can live in a healthy balance with pests and still be productive. You can do your own breeding, you can capture feral swarms, you can take advantage of the work that some dedicated treatment free breeders have already done. The goal is to have healthy bees that don't need to be assaulted with various substances that temporarily knock down mite levels, and which at the same time make the bees sick.

    Of course, I'm a beginner, so I may be completely wrong, but this is what I think now.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Barrie, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    412

    Default Re: Treatment Free: It's a path, not a solution

    As much as there is no magic bullet to treatment free bk, there are some commonalities amongst those that are successful. They all seem to do 2 or more of the following:

    Small cell
    Foundationless comb or own foundation (chemical free comb)
    Large 3 deep colonies
    Overwintering on honey
    Overwintered nuc's to replace losses
    Feral stock or locally adapted resistant stock
    Live fairly isolated from other beeks

    I am sure there are more.
    Adam - Zone 5A
    www.adamshoney.com

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Mtn. View, Arkansas, USA
    Posts
    1,263

    Default Re: Treatment Free: It's a path, not a solution

    zhiv9: There are too many beekeepers using standard sized foundations keeping bees treatment free successfully for the first two items on your list to be of any importance. Using time tested principles of bee management are the secret to successful beekeeping. Our bees resistance to the virsues carried by the varroa improve every year, if the beekeeper does his job the colony survives and prospers.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
    Posts
    1,973

    Default Re: Treatment Free: It's a path, not a solution

    AR Beekeeper,

    What are some of the time tested principles you are employing that you would say are your secret to successful beekeeping?
    And what do you mean by "successful"?

    Adam

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Barrie, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    412

    Default Re: Treatment Free: It's a path, not a solution

    Quote Originally Posted by AR Beekeeper View Post
    zhiv9: There are too many beekeepers using standard sized foundations keeping bees treatment free successfully for the first two items on your list to be of any importance.
    I am sure that there are examples for each item I listed of beekeepers that are successful without using that tactic. I haven't being doing this long enough to comment on whether or not I think small cell makes a difference. The key point on the second item isn't the cell size, but that the wax/foundation is being produced in house. I am sure that ther are people making there own large cell foundation with their own wax as well.

    Just because you can do it with large cell doesn't mean that small cell doesn't help. There many that think its important.

    I do agree with you regarding good beekeeping practices - there is no substitute for that.
    Adam - Zone 5A
    www.adamshoney.com

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Panama City, Florida, USA
    Posts
    554

    Default Re: Treatment Free: It's a path, not a solution

    rhaldridge,

    After August, you can see if treatment free is working for you in our area. We face a more daunting task than those up north. Any hive weakened either by mites or a queenless upset in June, is very likely to succumb to SHB in August. I don't mind the mites, its the SHB that are the downfall of most of my lost hives. The hive might survive in a weakened state brought on by mites, nosema, etc, except once weakened at the wrong time of the year and the beetles will kill them off or make them abscond. Here is a link to a photo of beetles in one of my strongest hives last August. This hive survived, but imagine had it been weakened by mites. That is whay I use a miteacide (apiguard), not really because I need to kill all the mites, but if they weaken the hive, even if it survives they are goners.



    shb.jpgapiary.jpg
    Last edited by jbeshearse; 07-26-2013 at 11:04 AM. Reason: added photos

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Tineo, Asturias, SPAIN
    Posts
    184

    Default Re: Treatment Free: It's a path, not a solution

    I haven't read all the posts, so I don't know if someone has made the point... while it is true that many swarms will be from managed hives, at least in my area there are lots of unmanaged colonies in the woods and in abandoned buildings (I am in an economically depressed area - coal country - in northern Spain - whose population has been in rapid decline for decades and more homes are empty than occupied). I know that many swarms are from unmanaged colonies and as a result are likely to be more resistant.


    For me the point isn't working around the results of mites, it is trying to allow bees to develop their own resistance to a parasite, just as any other wild animal population would do. To me, treatment means sustaining inferior stock through artificial means. There are a myriad of reasons why people might want to do this, but when I look at people like Mr. Bush or Time Ives, I would rather go that route.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
    Posts
    1,973

    Default Re: Treatment Free: It's a path, not a solution

    Quote Originally Posted by ForrestB View Post
    For me the point isn't working around the results of mites, it is trying to allow bees to develop their own resistance to a parasite, just as any other wild animal population would do. To me, treatment means sustaining inferior stock through artificial means. There are a myriad of reasons why people might want to do this, but when I look at people like Mr. Bush or Tim Ives, I would rather go that route.
    Agreed. My goals and reasons are similar. But I'm just coming to terms with the fact that employing the methods of Mike or Tim won't necessarily work for everyone in their specific situation/location.

    So if you look at treatment-free as a direction; or a challenge, then you are more likely to stay with it and succeed. I see people giving treatment free "a try", using a specific method and if it doesn't "work", then they may give up.

    I feel that if you view being treatment free as a path that you're going to take (come hell or high water) then you will succeed. But your methods may go through a few revisions getting there.

    Adam

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,079

    Default Re: Treatment Free: It's a path, not a solution

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    Isn't it?
    Let me push on the idea that TF is a path and not a solution. It is a solution, but not a solution in the way that most treatments are solutions. They are a finite solution. There are these mite, kill them mites, mites are gone, bees go on. TF is not that sort of solution. TF is a continuing solution, like fuel injection is a solution for how to get gasoline into an engine in the correct ratio with air. It's a piece put in place but requires a little input and the rest is automatic operation, feedback and adjustment provided by the machine itself.

    I see so often people claim they tried it and then resorted to treating. I don't know why if you kill mites with treatments would you expect that ceasing treatments would somehow result (in a similar timetable) that the mites would still get killed. This applies to all those newbees who buy their package in March and the hive is dead by Christmas. It's not the same sort of solution. However, when you get to the sustainable stage, the solution is there. The solution is already in place and the problem is solved. Now I worry about other things. As far as handling mites and disease, I'm at the end of the path and off down another path doing something else. Maybe TF is a destination, but if it is, it is one from which the journey may continue. Pushing the map analogy further, it's picking which state in which you want to live. Now I'm in the state, but there are a whole lot more places to go.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
    Posts
    1,973

    Default Re: Treatment Free: It's a path, not a solution

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    ... I see so often people claim they tried it and then resorted to treating. I don't know why if you kill mites with treatments would you expect that ceasing treatments would somehow result (in a similar timetable) that the mites would still get killed...
    That's the central reason behind my original post and the tread title. As one approaches the idea of being treatment free, they shouldn't approach it in the same way they might approach the use of oxalic acid or MAQS, or wintering nucs for that matter.

    Running bees without treatments is not a solution or an answer the way specific treatments or management strategies are. Being treatment free only means not treating, and then choosing a combination of a number of methods and management techniques to find a balance where you can reach your goals with the bees.

    I think for too many people, their decision-making process around mites reads something like this:

    Essential Oils.
    (and/or)
    Drone brood removal
    (and/or)
    Sugar shake
    (and/or)
    Organic Acids
    (and/or)
    Small cell
    (and/or)
    Thymol
    (and/or)
    Treatment Free

    Treatment free is not a method of dealing with mites. It a choice to not treat for mites. In that sense it a direction, or the beginning of a path. Once you are to the point where you are operating successfully without treating (reaching your own goals with your bees), then I guess you could say have reached a "destination" in that you've achieved something. But you could also say that you just remain on that treatment free path toward a variety of other goals; season after season. From there it's likely just things like getting them through winter, building up in spring, selling nucs, rearing queens and making honey - just like it is for most other beekeepers. You're just doing it without treating.

    So in that sense I feel that the decision should begin with

    Beekeeping with Treatments for mites
    (and/or)
    Treatment Free Beekeeping

    Only after that decision is made does that first list of solutions come into play.

    Adam

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,079

    Default Re: Treatment Free: It's a path, not a solution

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    Running bees without treatments is not a solution or an answer the way specific treatments or management strategies are.
    Yes, but why is it so often categorized that way?

    I was thinking today, relating modern beekeeping with historical beekeeping. From what I understand, the sort of increase I practice was common 80 or more years ago. However, there seems to be this pervasive undercurrent today that a hive should in the right conditions be immortal. Requeening, treating, and other practices are structured such that it is the unspoken opinion of many beekeepers that a hive should never die. I say this is all wrong, and there are so many problems that creep up. The first problem is the aging of comb as it collects environmental chemicals, viruses, bacteria, and the older it gets, the more attractive it becomes to wax moths. Hives are supposed to eventually die out just like everything else gets old and dies. I say we use this to our benefit and stop trying to manage contrary to nature. It is good to cycle out comb. It is good for weak hives to die. I agree with Kirk Webster in the idea that mites are beneficial in that they weed out the weak. Hives are not immortal and there's no reason to get worried about one dying.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Casey, Il, USA
    Posts
    1,027

    Default Re: Treatment Free: It's a path, not a solution

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    Yes, but why is it so often categorized that way?

    I was thinking today, relating modern beekeeping with historical beekeeping. From what I understand, the sort of increase I practice was common 80 or more years ago. However, there seems to be this pervasive undercurrent today that a hive should in the right conditions be immortal. Requeening, treating, and other practices are structured such that it is the unspoken opinion of many beekeepers that a hive should never die. I say this is all wrong, and there are so many problems that creep up. The first problem is the aging of comb as it collects environmental chemicals, viruses, bacteria, and the older it gets, the more attractive it becomes to wax moths. Hives are supposed to eventually die out just like everything else gets old and dies. I say we use this to our benefit and stop trying to manage contrary to nature. It is good to cycle out comb. It is good for weak hives to die. I agree with Kirk Webster in the idea that mites are beneficial in that they weed out the weak. Hives are not immortal and there's no reason to get worried about one dying.


    Isn't this the way it usually works with Ferrell colonies, Mite loads get high enough bees obscond or die , wax moth, etc move in, clean out and destroy the old comb and then at some point a new colony moves in and starts the process over?

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,079

    Default Re: Treatment Free: It's a path, not a solution

    Quote Originally Posted by Harley Craig View Post
    Mite loads get high enough bees obscond or die , wax moth, etc move in, clean out and destroy the old comb and then at some point a new colony moves in and starts the process over?
    That's one way it can work. It doesn't have to be mites. In a hive able to deal well with mites, it would more likely be the loss of a virgin on her mating flight, or starvation, or a skunk or who knows what.
    Last edited by Solomon Parker; 07-30-2013 at 07:27 PM.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
    Posts
    5,922

    Default Re: Treatment Free: It's a path, not a solution

    Good post LetMBee. The bond method works in accordance with evolutionary theory. So what cannot survive unaided dies. As per evolutionary theory there have been extinctions, and that's where the bond method can fail, as a method. As in my case, my losses were 100%. Which is quite in accordance with evolutionary theory and what has happened when two alien species encounter each other, historically, more species have become extinct than are currently alive. So it didn't advance my quest to produce a better bee at all. If a person gets some survivors though, he has a chance.

    Even Solomon, after some years of doing the bond method, got wiped down at one time to only two hives. He could just as easily lost everything, like me. It happens.

    Re the AFB thing, there is no evidence that bees are more resistant to it because infested hives have been burned. Those hives would have died anyway if they could not withstand the disease, as has been happening throughout the ages.
    The real thing that got AFB kicked off was the beginning of widespread transportation of bees and equipment last century. AFB then became an epidemic both in my country, and parts of the US. Strong government policy has now brought the disease to small proportions in both countries. Solomon if you think your bees are resistant to it try infecting all your hives with it. The likelihood is that more than 1/2 of them will become symptomatic.

    How do I know that? You would be amazed at the things I have seen, and the people I have met, during my work as an AFB inspector.

    So hey just kidding don't REALLY do that LOL.
    Last edited by Oldtimer; 07-30-2013 at 05:30 PM.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Ads